Navigating a heavy workload, the constant changes of in-person versus virtual classes, and the pressure to keep pace in school can be stressful and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
As the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
He was right. Certain factors of our learning experience are out of our control—but we always have the ability to choose how we deal with them. If your child is stressed or overwhelmed with school, adding the following de-stressing techniques to their routine can help them limit the stress in their lives.
One of the most common ways to lower nerves is to take consistent, regular breathing breaks. At the end of each hour, have your child stop studying and take slow, deep breaths. It will help relax your child and reset their energy for the next hour.
These scheduled, regular breathing breaks are used by high-performing individuals in all industries, from pro athletes to CEOs. Not only are deep breaths healthy, they are also an opportunity for you to stop everything else you’re dealing with. You can find other breathing exercises in this UC Berkeley helpsheet.
Clearing your mind of any thoughts seems impossible at times. Naturally, most people don’t even consider meditation as a viable practice—it’s a challenging habit to develop, especially for children. But with practice and consistency, meditation helps children develop focus skills and increase self-esteem and sleep quality.
Most importantly, meditation is a great way for your child to test their resilience and work ethic. At first, your child may struggle when they are attempting to clear their mind, but by persisting and putting in the time they will quickly make progress, increase the length of their sessions, and reap the benefits.
If you don’t know where to start, apps like Headspace and PrimedMind have free, short guided sessions geared specifically for meditation newbies. Getting started is as simple as your child sitting down in a quiet room, closing their eyes, and focusing on nothing but their breathing or body sensations. As thoughts race through their mind, they should acknowledge them and let them go!
Physical activity doesn’t need to include long runs or workouts. Simply being active, preferably outdoors, can help to manage stress significantly. Moving their bodies boosts children’s energy levels, shifts their focus to something lighter, and develops healthy habits that last a lifetime.
Have a conversation with your child about using that time to forget school workload or that upcoming science test they have been worrying about. For physical activity to work as a de-stresser, children need to allow themselves to be children and enjoy whatever they are doing.
If your child is already involved in sports, great. If not, choose something that gets their body moving but that they still enjoy. Andi if your child claims “they are just not into sports or physical activity,” teach them the power of having a growth mindset.
Most children have a special relationship with music; that’s why animated shows use catchy songs to get their messages across. Classical music has a proven track record of relaxing the muscles and the mind—so next time your child is studying for an important test or working on a big project, play some Bach (your favorite composer) to calm their nerves.
Another way to use music to destress is learning how to play an instrument. While at first frustrating, developing the discipline necessary to improve will shift your child’s focus away from schoolwork and possibly spark a new passion and interest in them.
Visualization, pleasure reading, and playing with stress balls or fidget spinners are other techniques that help children reduce anxiety. But the four above are a few of the most powerful and lasting.
The important thing is realizing that every child is different, so it might take some time to figure out which works best for yours. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed—as long as they make small improvements, your child is on the right path.